Or: A Remember When in which I ramble incoherently.
I like to think I would have become one at the time. I was a young mother with a baby still growing her way out of pre-maturity, so going to the movies became a semi-forgotten past-time that was only given precedence if there was a MUST-GO-SEE movie on the docket…like “Indiana Jones and the Holy Grail” or Star Trek. “Unforgiven” came pre-motherhood, so I made it to the theater then. I relished it because I had been (and continue to be) a long-time fan of westerns, both film/television (John Wayne, Chuck Conners, Michael Landon) and books (Louis L’amour, Zane Grey). In spite of its acclaim, though, “Unforgiven” did not generate the revival of Western cinema the way some had hoped, at least not in the way that Little House on the Prairie and Urban Cowboy (and really, if you think about it, Back to the Future III) had for a new generation of cowboy adventures and street fights. The mood in the ’90s, you might say, was predominantly “post-history.” Who wanted to look back at that?
So, as a continuing fan of western drama and literature, I still wonder why I didn’t jump at the chance to see a little film that popped up practically out of nowhere, touting a title I was already familiar with via the literary stylings of Louis L’amour (and a Made For TV movie starring the equally iconic Sam Elliot). All I knew about it this homage to past westerns was that Gene Hackman was reprising a western persona. I mentioned this to my husband, who was a fan of the actor (via “Hoosiers”) as potential fodder for a potential date night.
Alas, we never made it to the theater. I was in the throes of motherhood and it was easier to wait for video. And, in spite of the passing interest in another western, I wasn’t terribly keen on Stone, nor was Leonardo di Capprio all that captivating as I remembered him from his short-lived stint on Growing Pains. Nowhere on the register was an Aussie actor named Russell Crowe. Not for a lightweight movie-goer like me, at any rate. I probably would have fallen asleep in the midst of it and missed my chance to see an unknown bloom before my eyes.
So, I came close. Oh, so close.
Well, in light of all this, I could detail the moments leading up to the afternoon I decided to sit and watch “The Quick and the Dead” but it would be much less taxing on your poor eyes for me to simply say: it was nothing like what I was expecting. And I certainly didn’t expect to find myself with my jaw on the floor over a matter of a few silent seconds, wherein everything Cort had been and everything he was going to become for the rest of the movie was “described” by a mere rolling up of the sleeves.
THAT moment. So much said, with no words, every nuance of his gesture and carriage and expression displaying Cort’s story much more succinctly, far more tragically, than anything Sharon Stone could have spat in Herod’s face. I knew I wasn’t just looking at an actor. I was looking at a master thespian.
So, once I picked my jaw up off the floor, I realized I was hooked. Done. Cooked. Completely Taken. Do not pass Go, do not collect 200.00. You are a FAN.
It’s pedantic for me to point out that the word ‘fan’ is a shortening of the word ‘fanatic’ – but I dont like to think of myself as a fanatic. I have Real World Things that I deal with that have nothing at all to do with my interest in a particular actor or film. I’ll go for weeks without thinking of entertainment favorites.
I can also be quite immovable when it comes to the heart. Call me cold. Call me heartless. Call me an irredeemable stick in the mud. I have my reasons. It just takes a lot to affect me.
But one moment is unforgettable. It still makes my heart flip whenever I watch it, or look at that picture. And for that I am grateful. Thank you, Mr. Crowe, for sharing that with us.